Please Explain: Salt

Friday, January 14, 2011

Salt is found on most dining tables and in most kitchens—but this ubiquitous household item has a long and curious history. It’s a flavor enhancer, an ice melter, has been used as a currency, and has shaped civilization. Mark Kurlansky, author of  Salt: A World History, and Dr. Sonia Angell, Director, Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Control, New York City Health Department, explain what salt is, where it comes from, and discusses its influence on history and on our health.


Dr. Sonia Angell and Mark Kurlansky

Comments [25]

matt from manhattan

salt makes liquids have a higherboiling point and a lower freezing point. It allows the ice cream to actually get to a lower temp to freeze. or higher temp to boil

Jan. 14 2011 02:00 PM
Barbara from Monmouth Beach, NJ

Vegetarians who eat cheese are eating a LOT of salt. Look at the labels on the cheese.

Jan. 14 2011 01:58 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I didn't hear all of Marjorie's call, so this may have been ruled out, but could her husband be getting too much potassium, maybe from eating a lot of bananas or potatoes?

Jan. 14 2011 01:56 PM
Serge Lescouarnec from Montclair, NJ

Mark's mention of the importance of salt as currency in Roman empire reminded me of a session on Italian food and culture where history of salt was also discussed.

Some listeners might want to check my interview with Mark Bitterman, author of 'Salted'
on December 15

Jan. 14 2011 01:55 PM
BB from Brooklyn

I have P.O.T.S and drink salted water regularly to prevent syncope...will I have the long term affects???

Jan. 14 2011 01:54 PM
Susan from Navesink, NJ

My blood pressure was always low as a young woman--sometimes I'd be turned down to give blood. Now that I'm 59, it's 120/80, still OK, but not low anymore. I've always had a great appetite for salt and want to know if I've permanently increased my blood pressure from too much salt intake--as one of my family members has told me.

Jan. 14 2011 01:52 PM

I am from Belize, and when I was a kid, back in 1960’s if you get a cut on your body my grandmother would pour salt into in the wound. Can you tell me why this was done?

Jan. 14 2011 01:52 PM
Frank from Ny

Why is there sugar (dextrose) in some brands of salt?

Jan. 14 2011 01:48 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I saw bags of *calcium* chloride outside my building after that big snowstorm! Is it less damaging than sodium chloride for street surfaces, tires, & the environment?

Jan. 14 2011 01:46 PM
anonymous from New York

I was recently diagnosed with hbp and now take daily medication for this condition.

I usually run a couple of marathons a year but I'm now concerned about the sports drinks that I consume during each race. How can I determine what amount of sports drink to consume without putting myself at risk?

Jan. 14 2011 01:46 PM
Rayna from Astoria

in accordance with the questions about low blood pressure, I was advised to eat more salt by a Dr. when I had my blood pressure checked and it was low. Please have the guests remark.

Jan. 14 2011 01:45 PM
Patrick from Hoboken, NJ

I was kind of disappointed that the Angelina Jolie movie 'Salt' was about Russian spies and not about the wonderful mineral.

Jan. 14 2011 01:43 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Could the guests talk about the balance between sodium & potassium diets, & more generally about non-sodium salts?

Jan. 14 2011 01:40 PM

I use Sour Salt for cleaning pots - is this something that's eaten? Is it safe? It's a great cleaner to whiten my corning coffee pot!

Jan. 14 2011 01:39 PM
Paul from New York, NY

As a medical student I was interested to learn that if one's kidneys are physiologically healthy, they are able to filter massive quantities of NaCl and that there is inconclusive data showing that salt intake increases blood pressure in person with proper renal function. This is supported by large Cochrine reviews. I'd love if your guests could clarify this for us listeners.

Jan. 14 2011 01:39 PM
Rosemary Brennan

I visited the Crakow Saltworks this past summer while on a tour. I'd read Mark's book so I was very excited to see them - most everyone else in the group couldn't understand my excitement. They did not disappoint - amazing.

Jan. 14 2011 01:39 PM
howitt from NJ

As we get plenty of salt in convenience food, is it advisable to avoid adding any extra with the salt shaker?
But if so, is one who does this at risk of getting insufficient iodine?

Jan. 14 2011 01:38 PM
Barbara from Monmouth Beach, NJ

In the early 1800's, the refining of salt was the largest industry in Syracuse, NY, and it supplied salt to much of the USA. There's Salt Museum there now (located in Liverpool and on the shore of Onondaga Lake). The museum is full of dynamic exhibits and artifacts. I visited it years ago and just loved it.

Jan. 14 2011 01:36 PM
Dinu from New York

I always thought that iodized salt was not kosher because iodine is usually derived from crustaceans which are not kosher. By that token, kosher salt is kosher because it's not iodized. No?

Jan. 14 2011 01:34 PM

This is really terrible. Ask Sally Fallon to talk about this. Kosher salt is only rock salt and it doesn't mean anything. Sea salt - the top of it - is called fleur de sel and it's not trendy it's traditional - fleur de sel is what gets bleached at teh top of the piles in the salt flats. Iodized salt is poison - find out about how it's processed. Noirmoutiers salt is full of trace minerals - maybe thats what you mean by clay. Just go to the salt flats and look at them!

Jan. 14 2011 01:32 PM
Bernard from Bronx

I use sea salt as part of my nasal wash routine. Does that practice affect my salt intake?

Jan. 14 2011 01:32 PM
Shane Nye from Manhattan

How much salt or sodium affect someone suffering from osteoporosis?

Jan. 14 2011 01:29 PM
Heidi from Brooklyn

Salt is one of my favorite books-I recommend it to all of my friends. I've reread it numerous times -the history on salt is strangly fascinating. Next up, Oysters!

Jan. 14 2011 01:28 PM
ann from Andes

if someone has low/normal blood pressure, is it still bad to eat a lot of salt?

Jan. 14 2011 12:18 PM
Elliott from New York

Why do you put salt in an ice cream maker to keep the ice from melting…then put salt on the sidewalk to make ice melt?

Jan. 14 2011 12:09 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.